The Many Faces of Orrin Hatch

During a speech at the High School Leadership Summit on last Thursday, Hatch disparaged liberal bashing stating, “if you are owning libs just to own libs, your victory will be short-lived” which he followed with an urge for the audience to “aim higher.” The Senator’s recommendation was well stated and something he himself should heed.  

About a week ago, Senator Orrin Hatch manifested the form of an internet blogger via the Daily Beast to mock opposition to Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. To bolster his stance, Hatch likened Democratic disapproval of the nominee to “jumping the shark.” The humor in Hatch making a Happy Days reference was not lost on me, but the hypocritical anecdotes, the brazen snark, and the overall dismissive nature of his comments had my attention.

To Hatch’s credit, some of the claims aimed at Kavanaugh may not seem like typical critiques of SCOTUS nominees. Sure, concerns over debt Kavanaugh incurred purchasing baseball tickets may seem underwhelming. On the other hand, it’s not outrageous to question how a SCOTUS nominee erased over $100,000 in debt in less than a year.

Hatch also facetiously mentions the the Yale letter claiming “people will die if he [Kavanaugh] is confirmed.” At first glance this claim may seem dramatic, but if Hatch fully digested the actual letter (instead of the blog response linked in his op-ed equally dripping with sarcasm) he’d understand the reasoning. The statement is in reference to opinions and rulings Kavanuagh has previously made, a typical vetting measure for a SCOTUS nominee. The letter draws attention to Kavanaugh’s recent ruling to deny an immigrant woman the right to an abortion. It also references a 2015 dissent claiming the ACA contraceptive mandate infringes upon religious organizations’ rights, even though they were allowed to opt out. A Supreme Court Judge with those opinions could very well lead to more limits on abortion and thus more women seeking unsafe abortions that can lead to death. It’s a plausible concern, making it easy to see why Democrats are so distressed. But that’s not the only reason the left is causing such a stir.

It’s safe to say the Merrick Garland confirmation, or lack thereof, put a pockmark on the whole SCOTUS process. The “McConnell Rule,” created in 2016 when the Senate Majority Leader chose to block Garland’s confirmation, was a farce and provides further explanation as to why Democrats are so vehemently challenging Kavanaugh. Of course, Hatch, busy scoring right-wing blogger points, failed to even mention this in his op-ed.

Blocking Garland’s confirmation until after the election to allow the people of America a voice in the nomination was unprecedented. The American people had indeed exercised their voice on the matter when they voted Obama into office in 2012, granting him a four year term and the power to nominate Supreme Court judges through the duration of those four years. Nevertheless, Republicans stuck to their guns and Hatch remained complicit despite previously telling reporters there was “no question” Garland would be confirmed.

In fact, Hatch was on record multiple times lauding Garland’s qualifications, calling him a “consensus nominee” and in 1996, he even accused fellow Senate Republicans of “playing politics with judges” for obstructing Garlands’ confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court. Fast forward to Garland’s 2016 SCOTUS nomination and Hatch was no longer scrutinizing his peers for playing politics with judges, he was showing them how it’s done.

As the battle over Garland’s nomination played out, Hatch made news for a different op-ed, but for all the wrong reasons. In May of 2016, the Deseret News momentarily published an op-ed from Hatch claiming he had met with Garland, but his decision to block the confirmation remained unchanged. The problem was Hatch hadn’t yet met with Garland. Blocking the nominee he promoted without so much as a meeting was the peak of hypocrisy and further proved Hatch set aside the country’s best interest to follow party lines. Here Hatch was playing politics with judges, the very thing he had criticized Republicans for with the very same judge no less.

As he stood at the podium, addressing future leaders as the voice of reason, I couldn’t help but wonder if even a remnant of his contradictory op-ed lingered in the back of his mind. Less than a week ago, Hatch preyed on leftist concerns like… well a shark. And yet here he was again, condemning actions he himself exhibited all the while taking no accountability. Hatch should ditch the perpetual about-face and take his own advice to “aim higher.” Like the Fonz, he just might clear that shark.


Kyle Garahana is the Director of Research at Alliance for a Better Utah.

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